Google Play Music All Access screenshot

It’s been a few weeks since Google’s new music streaming service – Google Play Music All Access – was released to the world. I’ve spent lots of time with it and have used it create playlists during informal get-togethers with friends, during a road trip, while out walking my dog, and while cleaning my house. I’ve used it on my HTC EVO 4G LTE with headphones plugged in, on my ASUS Nexus 7 with Bluetooth speakers, and on my Chromebook Pixel with all of the above. And, for now, I’ve decided that it’s a keeper, especially over services like Spotify and Rdio.

When I asked in our forum whether anyone planned to switch to All Access for themselves, I still wasn’t quite sure what I was going to do myself. But after a few weeks of playing around with it for myself, I’ve finally made up my mind – and here’s why.

All Access has simpler pricing, and is cheaper than the competition (for now).

With Spotify, you can stream music on your desktop for free, or radio on your mobile device for free. You can pay one price to eliminate ads on the desktop, and another price to play individual tracks on your phone. Rdio not only has different pricing tiers for desktop and mobile, but it also has a family plan, as well. Free users have an unspoken limit on how much music they can stream on the desktop, but no one seems to know what it is.

On the other hand, All Access has one plan – and that plan gets you everything, on both mobile and desktop. Plus, it’s cheaper than the competition: Spotify and Rdio charge $9.99 for the most similar plans, while All Access will only charge $7.99 if you subscribe before June 30. That’s even cheaper for two people than Rdio’s family plan.

All Access has more features than the others.

All Access features unlimited streaming of most of Google Play Music’s online library. You can create unlimited playlists and listen to unlimited radio with no commercials, and enjoy unlimited skips on desktop and mobile. Mobile users can also download songs for offline playback, and can even look ahead at what their individual radio stations will play in the future. Users can add songs to the queue, or simply swipe to remove them. Users can also easily reorder songs, even in radio stations.

Additionally, All Access lets you subscribe to playlists that are curated and updated by Google’s own “music experts,” which I find more helpful than subscribing to playlists from my friends, who often have horribly different tastes in music than me.

Your main options when using All Access include “Listen Now,” which showcases recently played albums, radio stations, tracks, and playlists; “My Library,” which consists of songs you’ve uploaded plus other songs you’ve added from the streaming library; “Radio,” which are stations you create, along with recommended stations; and “Explore,” which is one of the best ways to discover new music. And in my experience, the more you listen, the better it gets about suggesting new music for you to listen to, and creating new radio stations. (You’ll have to have some patience here – it didn’t get it all right in the beginning, but after a little while – once it learned more about my tastes in music – its recommendations have been spot on.)

All Access gives you the best of both worlds.

Right now, All Access is the only service that does all three of these:

  • All Access acts as a music locker, allowing you to upload 20,000 of your own, personal tracks to your library – even if you don’t pay the monthly fee.
  • All Access also lets you stream a majority of songs that you can purchase on Google Play Music, as much or as little as you want.
  • Finally, All Access lets you purchase some individual tracks that aren’t available to stream (most songs by The Beatles comes to mind), or that you might want to own in case you cancel the monthly subscription. The songs you purchase and the ones you upload will always be available to you, regardless if you pay each month or not.

iTunes is rumored to be working on something similar to All Access, and if this happens, Google might be in trouble. But right now, the fact remains that Google’s service is the only one that lets you do all three, and it does it really well. If Google can poach enough iTunes customers away from Apple, then it might not matter as much when iTunes finally does get around to launching a similar product.

Let’s face it – between 20,000 of my own tracks, the tracks I can purchase from Google, and Google’s streaming music library, there are really no limits to what I can listen to.

However, All Access is only great if you use Android.

Right now, desktop access consists of a web player that’s available on all major desktop OSes, including Chrome OS, Windows, Mac, and Linux. That’s great – but unfortunately, there’s only an Android app right now. If you use iPhone or Windows Phone – or, God forbid, Blackberry – then you’re pretty much out of luck. Google promises that it’s working on an iOS app that will be released very soon, but it’s not here right now.

Still, the Android app is very good, and it’s been getting consistent updates to make it better. I find navigation very intuitive, and for the most part all of the desktop features are available in the Android app, except for some of the labs that you can enable.

One fairly major beef I have is that it’s not possible for me to upload my own music using Google’s own Chrome OS. There is no way to do it from the desktop interface, and there’s no Music Manager app for Chrome like there is for Windows, Mac, and Linux. If Google wants Chrome OS to truly be a desktop replacement, then it needs to fix this problem right away.

It’s not a huge issue for me, since the majority of my music was uploaded a couple years ago from a Windows machine. But I still have one song on my Chromebook hard drive that I’m just dying to upload. Come on, Google.

Overall, though, I heartily recommend Google Play Music All Access. It’s everything a music streaming service should be – and then some.